and struggles over the abuse of religious authority are nothing new. Daniel
went to the lion's den and the three worthies into the furnace over this
issue. Countless numbers of Christians were thrown to the lions in the
heyday of the Roman Empire. Such is the history of Gods people in
relation to religious authority and its abuse.
conflict has been complicated by the fact that proper respect for authority
is part of the Gospel message. Paul said that even worldly governments are
ordained of God (Rom 13:1). The word of God declares that Rebellion
is as the sin of witchcraft (1 Sam 15:23). Our Lord taught that every
child of God is to render respect where it is due (Matt 22:21). The
Christian is committed to obey this principle.
clarity of these Biblical instructions has created numberless conflicts. In
every age Gods people have wrestled with the problem. While desiring to
respect religious authority, they could do so only at the expense of their
conscience. Authority versus conscience has been a perpetual problem.
cross of our Lord is history's prime example of conflict with established
religious authority. Our Lord stood resolute. The price was His life.
apostles: All, except John, died violent deaths because of abused authority.
Peter said that we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29).
Reformers: Our church has always admired the men who lived in freedom
regardless of cost. We have held out the Waldenses, Huss, Jerome, Wycliff,
and Luther as role models of Christian dedication. They all agonized over
the question of religious authority.
thousand years of Jewish history is tragic proof that blind trust in
leadership can bring calamity. History reveals an ongoing struggle between a
proper yielding to religious authority and resisting its abuse.
have always taken a position that authority is to be respected, but never
unconditionally. No church, either Catholic or Protestant, has the right to
force the conscience. The fact that we have kept the Sabbath contrary to the
practice of the body of Christendom is obvious proof of our dedication to
this principle. A free conscience under God is an authority greater than
that of any man or church.
Catholic Church abused its authority to the point of persecution is a matter
of historical record. Protestants have not been immune from such a practice.
Autocratic authority split the church in the Reformation. We must not forget
this historic fact. Could Adventist leadership, in a time of internal
religious crisis, abuse its authority? Could our laity begin to challenge
what they feel is unjustifiable use of elective office? Many believe it can
happen and possibly will happen. Could Adventism adopt its own version of
following collection of quotations from the pen of Ellen White leave little
doubt that we are in danger. She
did not warn against nonexistent conditions and possibilities. Abuse of
authority has always resulted in the spilling of innocent blood.
spirit of domination is extending to the presidents of our conferences. If
man is sanguine of his own powers and seeks to exercise dominion over his
brethren, feeling that he is invested with authority to make his will the
ruling power, the best and only safe course is to remove him, lest great
harm be done and he lose his own soul and imperil the souls of others.
All ye are brethren. This disposition to lord it over Gods heritage
will cause a reaction unless these men change their course. Those in
authority should manifest the spirit of Christ . . A mans position does
not make him one jot or tittle greater in the sight of God; it is character
alone that God values . . Satan exults, for he has inspired them with his
attributes. They are following in the track of Romanism. Testimonies
to Ministers, 362.
doctrine that God has committed to the church the right to control the
conscience, and to define and punish heresy is one of the most deeply rooted
of papal errors. Great Controversy, 293.
appointed no man to be conscience for his fellowman. It is not wise to lay
so much responsibility upon an officer that he will feel that he is forced
to become a dictator . . For years there has been a growing tendency for men
placed in positions of responsibility to lord it over Gods heritage . . I
had to bear my testimony of warning against it because souls were being led
to look to man for wisdom instead of looking to God . . And now the same
message has again been given me, more definite and decisive, because there
has been a deeper offense to the Spirit of God.‑ Testimonies
to Ministers, 477-478.
question of religious freedom needs to be clearly comprehended by our people
in more ways than one. With outstretched arms men are seeking to steady the
ark, and the anger of the Lord is kindled against them, because they think
that their position entitles them to say what the Lords servants shall do
and what they shall not so . . Every man has an individuality of his own,
which is to be submerged in any other human being . . Men are under Gods
control, not under the control of weak, erring human beings. They are to be
left free to be guided by the Holy Spirit. Upward Look, 227.
man carries responsibilities in the church, he is not given liberty to rule
the mind and judgment of others with whom the Lord is working . . Position
does not make the man . .Position does not give liberty to exercise power
arbitrarily over others. It is counsel that is needed; righteousness in the
deportment that is to be made manifest with meekness and humbleness of mind,
and a spirit to seek the Lord until He is found. Testimonies
to Ministers, 363.
TO DEMAND CONFORMITY
that one does not in all things conform to our personal ideas or opinions
will not justify us in forbidding him to labor for God. Christ is the Great
Teacher; we are not to judge or to command, but in humility each is to sit
at the feet of Jesus, and learn of Him . . How careful we should be lest we
discourage one of Gods light bearers, and thus intercept the rays that He
would have shine to the world! Desire of Ages, 438.
classes (leadership) were to think, decide, enjoy, and rule; the lower were
to obey and serve. Religion, like all things else, was a matter of
authority. The people were expected to believe and practice as their
superiors directed. The right of man to think and act for himself was wholly
unrecognized . . Christ was establishing a kingdom based on different
principles. He called men, not to authority, but to service, the strong to
bear the infirmities of the weak. Power, position, talent, education, placed
their possessor under the greater obligation to serve his fellows. Desire
of Ages, 550.
man has an individuality of his own, which is not to be submerged in
any other human being. The life of each one must be hid with Christ
in God. Men are under Gods control, not under the control of weak, erring
human beings. They are to be left free to be guided by the Holy Spirit, not
by the fitful perverse spirit of unsanctified men. Upward Look, 227.
matters of conscience the soul must be left untrammeled. No one is to
control another's mind, to judge for another, or to prescribe his duty.
God gives to every soul freedom to think, and to follow his own convictions.
Every one of us shall give account of himself to God. No one has a
right to merge his own individuality in that of another. In all matters
where principle is involved, let every man be fully persuaded in his own
mind (Rom 14:12, 5). In Christ's kingdom there is no lordly oppression, no
compulsion of manner. Desire of Ages, 550-551.
earnest solemnity the Speaker (Christ) declared: The church is made of many
minds, each of whom has an individuality. I gave My life in order that men
and women, by divine grace, might blend in revealing a perfect pattern of My
character, while at the same time retaining their individuality. No one has
the right to destroy or submerge the individuality of any other human mind,
by uttering words of criticism and faultfinding and condemnation.
voice of the General Conference has been represented as an authority to be
heeded as the voice of the Holy Spirit. But when members of the General
Conference Committee become entangled in business affairs and financial
perplexities, the sacred elevated character of their work is to a great
degree lost. The temple of God becomes a place of merchandise, and the
ministers of Gods house as commercial business men (General
Conference Bulletin 1901, 76)
OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
THE LATTER RAIN
the showers of the latter rain, the inventions of man, the human machinery,
will at times be swept away, the boundary of mans authority will be as
broken reeds, and the Holy Spirit will speak through the living, human
agent, with convincing power.2 Selected Messages, 58-59.
SPIRIT INSULTED BY LEADERSHIP
Holy Spirit has been insulted, and light has been rejected. Is it possible
for those who for years have been so blinded to see? . . There are men who
will soon evidence which banner they are standing under, the banner of
the Prince of life or the banner of the prince of darkness.
to Ministers, 393.
STOOD IN GODS WAY
will men be hindrances, when they might be helps? Why will they block the
wheels when they might push with marked success? Why will they rob their own
soul of good and deprive others of the blessing that might come through
them. These rejecters of light will remain barren deserts, where no
refreshing, healing waters flow, and their ministrations as barren of
moisture as were the hills of Gilboa. Testimonies to Ministers, 413.
PRINCIPLES ARE WRONG
speak to my brethren nigh and afar off. I cannot hold my peace. They are not
working on correct principles. Those who stand in responsible positions must
not feel that their position of importance makes them men of infallible
judgment . . The Lord has not placed
any one of His human agencies under the dictation and control of those who
are themselves but erring mortals. He has not placed upon men the power to
say, You shall do this, and you shall do that. Testimonies to
and unbelief are cherished, the faithful ministers will be removed from the
people who think they know so much. If thou hadst known, said Christ, even
thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but
now they are hid from thine eyes. Testimonies to
cords are drawn much tighter, if the rules are much finer, if men continue
to bind their fellow-labors closer to the commandments of men, many will be
stirred by the Spirit of God to break every shackle and assert their liberty
in Christ Jesus. Review and Herald, July 23, 1895.
WHITE OBJECT OF ABUSE
night I dreamed I was in Battle Creek looking out from the side glass at the
door, and saw a company marching up to the house, two and two. They looked
stern and determined. I knew them well. I turned to open the parlor door to
receive them, but thought I would look again. The scene was changed. The
company now presented the appearance of a Catholic procession. One bore in
his hand a cross, another a reed. As they approached, the one carrying a
reed made a circle around the house, saying three times: This house is
proscribed. The goods must be confiscated. They have spoken against our holy
order. Terror seized me, and I ran through the house, out of the north
door, and found myself in the midst of a company, some of whom I knew but I
dared not speak a word to them for fear of being betrayed. I tried to seek a
retired spot where I might weep and pray without meeting eager, inquisitive
eyes wherever I turned. I repeated frequently: If I could only understand
this. If they will tell me what I have said or what I have done. I wept
and prayed much as I saw our goods confiscated. I tried to read sympathy or
pity for me in the looks of those around me, and marked the countenances of
several who I thought would speak to me and comfort me if they did not fear
that they would be observed by others . . (politics?)
seen the fulfillment of this dream. At Battle Creek we met reports which had
no foundation in truth . I was
filled with grief as I listened to a charge from a fellow labor whom I had
respected . . We found a strong, accusing spirit against us . . We met
distrust and positive coldness instead of welcome and encouragement . . They
have cast censure upon me, as though I were to blame for their being in
trial. Those who thus censured me were entirely ignorant of what they were
talking about. I protest against persons sitting as inquisitors upon my
course of action.1 Testimonies, 578, 580, 585.
THE PEOPLE KNEW
now feel sure that they are safe in respecting the voice of the General
Conference Association? If the people in our churches understood the
management of the men who walk in the light of the sparks of their own
kindling, would they respect their decisions? I answer, No, not for a
moment. I have been shown that the people at large do not know the heart of
the work is being diseased at Battle Creek. Many of the people are in a
lethargic, listless, apathetic condition, and assent to plans which they do
not understand. Special Testimony to Review and Herald Office in
Battle Creek, 1896.
It is not
in the order of God that a few men should manage the great interests
throughout the field. Many of the men who have acted as counselors in board
and council meetings need to be weeded out. Other men should take their
places; for their voice is not the voice of God . . These men are no more
called Israel, but supplanters. They have worked themselves so long instead
of being worded by the Holy Spirit, that they know not what spirit impels
them to action. Letter to Elder O.A. Tate, 8?27/96.
is no doubt that these counsels must be interpreted as to time, place and
condition. However, there are eternal principles undergirding these
quotations that stand unchangeable. These guidelines are needed more today
than at any time in our past history. We must take care. We may ignore these
counsels to our own peril. May God guide us in this crucial time. Amen and
It is exceedingly difficult to secure an honest hearing for any criticism of authority. Established beliefs are well nigh invulnerable because they are accorded infallibility by the masses who are educated to believe that they will be damned for thinking few people will tolerated opposition of any kind to anything they have been educated to believe. People who have their thinking done for them are always intolerant. J.H. Tilden, M.D.